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“The Holidays Bring That Out In People”

The Invaluable Support Of Hospital Volunteers 

BH Volunteer Collage

Many view the holiday season as a time to give – and to give back. For the volunteers at Beverly Hospital and throughout Lahey Health, this kind of giving is something they do every day.

“We’re very fortunate to have the volunteers that we do,” said Jane Karaman, Beverly Hospital’s volunteer services manager. “Our volunteers give us so much.”

With the help of volunteers, hospitals can expand the services they offer that go beyond the clinical. At Beverly Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital, and the Lahey Outpatient Center in Danvers, about 350 volunteers donate their time to help out in more than 50 different departments.

The Knowledge That They Are Helping Others

During the holiday season – and all year long – volunteers work for no payment other than the knowledge that they are helping others. High school students and adults of all ages can volunteer. “Currently the youngest volunteer we have is 15, and the oldest is in her 90s,” Karaman said.

Patients arriving at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. for a procedure or surgery will be personally greeted by a volunteer, who accompanies them to the appropriate department. Volunteer patient ambassadors go around to inpatient rooms asking if they could help with any nonclinical needs, such as getting a newspaper or something to drink.

Volunteers at the front desk will walk with a visitor to a particular location to ensure no one gets lost, and others answer phones or transport patients in wheelchairs. The hospital gift shop is staffed seven days a week by volunteers. Every baby born at the hospital goes home with a soft and warm handmade hat, courtesy of a group of volunteer knitters.

Returning Kindness That Had Been Shown To Them

There are a number of reasons why hospital volunteers choose to donate their time. For many, the hospital was there for them and their family in times of need, and they want to return the kindness shown to them.

“That’s a very common thread,” Karaman said. “People want to give back because we took such excellent care of them or their mother or father or spouse. When dollars are short, in lieu of money, they give us their time.”

Beverly Hospital is regarded by North Shore residents as their own community hospital, and volunteers come from many surrounding towns to donate their time. This year’s student volunteers, for example, come from 20 different high schools and represent 22 different towns.

The personal touch delivered by volunteers is especially appreciated during the holiday season, when illness and hospitalization can be especially hard on a family. It’s also a time when many reflect on what they can do to support others. “The holidays bring that out in people, the compassion and the desire to help others,” Karaman said. “It makes people think more about it.”